"An enchanting and thrilling contemporary fantasy." – Brigid Kemmerer, New York Times bestselling author of A Curse So Dark and Lonely
A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect itat any cost. New York Times bestselling author Sara Holland crafts a breathtaking new contemporary fantasy perfect for fans of Melissa Albert and Holly Black.
Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worldseach with their own magictogether. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.
For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie's brother. It's where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it's where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.
But this summer, the impossible happensa dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She'll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she's letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddieno one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .
Sara Holland takes the lush fantasy that captured readers in Everless and Evermore and weaves it into the real world to create a wholly captivating new series where power and peril lurk behind every door.
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THE BUS DEPOT IN DENVER smells like gasoline and asphalt, unwashed bodies and stale coffee. It's loud with the creak and huff of buses outside, an old speaker system announcing arrival times in between bursts of static, the thud of footsteps as people run to catch their buses. It all blurs together into white noise, and as long as I see the mountains out the window, gilded in the afternoon sun, I can imagine I'm somewhere else. The lightning plains of Byrn, or the white deserts the Fiorden delegates have told me about, where the earthquakes are so constant that the land heaves and ripples like a pale sea.
And even without imagining, this decrepit station, for all its bustle and noise, is better than where I was half an hour ago.
Better than the sterile chemical smell and hollow, ringing silence of the maximum-security prison where they've kept my mother for more than ten years now.
I stop in front of the arrivals board and hoist my duffel bag higher on my shoulder. I focus on the aged screen to try to push the images out of my head. Mom's face behind the scratched plexiglass, the flat darkness of her eyes. It's like she doesn't care, can't be bothered about what's going to happen next.
I blink hard, focus on the places and times flickering above me. Omaha, 2:25.
That's the bus I'm supposed to take. The plan is to stay with Grandma Ellen, my dad's mom, for the summer, and intern at the insurance company she runs. Dad doesn't want me at the Inn at Havenfall — not now and not ever again. He didn't understand Mom's attachment to the place, and he doesn't get mine either. It's like he can sense the glimmer of magic clinging to me when I return, and it makes him suspicious. He says I should be doing something I can put on a college application next year.
And it's true that Havenfall doesn't exactly appear in an online search. My working at the inn won't earn me internship credits anywhere. But these summers are all I have. I've been going to the inn for summers since I was six. And the older I get, the more important it is to show Uncle Marcus what I can do, that I can be useful. If all goes well, this time next summer I'll be traveling to the mountains with more than just a summer bag. Marcus will name me as his inheritor, and I'll move into the inn for good.
So, no. Clearly, I'm not going to Omaha. A sparkling insurance-sales career is not in my future.
My insides feel tense, brittle somehow, and my eyes keep drifting back to the blue smudges of mountains outside the windows. Like I'll fall to pieces if I'm not among them soon. I look back at the arrivals board and scan a few lines down, past Boise and Laramie and Salt Lake City to Haven. 3:50. Gate 8, the last one, at the dusty far end of the depot.
I glance around the room, where sunlight bounces off the high ceilings. There are only two other people in the waiting area now, a young guy in a hoodie sleeping across four chairs and a middle-aged man with thinning blond hair reading a yellowed newspaper. I go to the far side and sit against the wall on the dingy carpet, next to the outlet that I know from experience is the only one that works, and plug in my phone to let it charge for the long ride.
I should text Marcus and let him know I'm coming. But when I start to type, a sense of dread fills me. What if he tells me not to come? To listen to my dad? Just the thought is almost unbearable. I lock my screen and put it on the floor facedown, digging my fingers into my palms. If I just show up, he can't turn me away. Soon I'll be there, in my room overlooking the valley, dancing in the ballroom, with Brekken under the stars.
Going up into the mountains always feels like I'm leaving the rest of the world behind. In the thinner air, it's as if I'm someone else. I'm Maddie Morrow, Marcus's trusted niece and maybe inheritor of the Inn at Havenfall, if I play my cards right and impress the delegates from the Adjacent Realms. Not Maddie Morrow, the girl with the dead older brother, the girl with the mom on death row.
Shit. I hadn't let myself remember those words until now. I got all the way out of Sterling Correctional's visiting hall, onto the bus on the county road, to the depot and into this corner before I thought about them. And now the memories flood back in with a rush of nausea. The stares and whispers that follow me everywhere: in the halls at school, at the grocery store, even at home, Dad and his wife, Marla, trailing me with their eyes like any second I might snap, like whatever sickness Mom has lives in me too.
But Mom is the worst part of it. Her apathy. When the death sentence was first handed down, I thought maybe, just maybe, this would shock her into admitting the truth. That she didn't kill Nathan eleven years ago. And even if no one but me really believed her, it would be enough to keep her alive.
But when I sat across from her this morning, the plexiglass between us, she was the same blank face she's been for eleven years. She just blinked, slowly, when I told her for the thousandth time — I was there. I saw the thing in our house. It came in through the window; I saw the glass on the floor.
She replied the same as always, too, slow and soft. You were imagining it. We see what we want to see, love, but there are no monsters, just people who do horrible things. I was unbalanced, and I did a horrible thing.
Don't go looking for answers where there are none.
But that's not what happened. I know what I saw that night, even if it was only through the crack between two cupboard doors. Before the overhead light shattered, leaving us in shadows, I saw the monstrous dark shape vaulting toward my brother. The roaring sound that filled the kitchen. Then all at once, the screaming stopped and my brother was gone, the kitchen floor slick with blood.
My mother wasn't responsible for Nathan's death; it was a beast from a banished world. And someone, or something, pressured her into taking the blame. Maybe she feared what might happen to Havenfall if she were ever to reveal the truth.
And what could I do? Because the thing is, you can't tell people a monster killed your brother. People will start to talk about you. Freak. Liar. Crazy.
But at Havenfall, people believe me. I've only told a few people, but they believe me. I have to hold on to that. It's all I have.
I check my phone reflexively, half-afraid that Dad will somehow sense I'm not on the way to Omaha. I'll update him when it's too late to turn back. I have only one bar of service, and that's likely to blink out once we reach the mountains, but it doesn't matter. All the people I actually want to talk to are up ahead, at the summit in Havenfall. I'll see them soon, and besides, no one there even knows what a phone is. To them it's just a strange, glimmering, blinking artifact.
I grin as a memory from last summer surfaces. I'd finally wheedled Dad into getting me a smartphone, and my first night at Havenfall, Brekken and I snuck out to the barn and I introduced him to Candy Crush. I wish I had a video of him — serious Brekken, with his soldier's bearing and noble manners and literally otherworldly cheekbones — hunched over the screen with the tips of his jeweled ears turning red, hissing Fiorden curses whenever he lost a life. I've never taken a picture of Brekken, of course. While Marcus doesn't subject me to the no-phones-on-inn-grounds rule like every other human who enters Havenfall, he trusts me not to be stupid. A leaked video could be disastrous, and I'd never endanger my safe place. My birthright. My home.
Anyway, I don't need a picture. I'll see Brekken soon in the flesh.
At 3:55, the bus to Haven finally pulls up. It looks older than the others, with scratches and rust gathering around the wheels. But my heart still lifts as I climb on board. The driver, a slight, wrinkled man, smiles warmly at me.
"How you doing today, miss?"
"Great," I say with a returning smile as I drop my duffel and slide in a few seats behind him, and I mean it. There's a smattering of people on the bus — an old woman in the back, bundled up as though it's winter and not June, a young mother cradling a wailing infant, and the two men from the depot. The engine rattles loudly, and the metal roof above me is dented with what looks like the marks of hailstones.
It takes us four hours to reach the mountains, and I let myself doze off against the window, sinking into troubled half dreams. I dream Mom and Nate are on the bus beside me, just as they were when we visited Havenfall as kids, my brother fiddling with the silver jacks Marcus had given him when he was born. And my heart leaps for joy.
But when I say Nathan's name and they both turn to me, I see the prisoner version of Mom, with her baggy tan jumpsuit and listless expression. My brother's eyes are wide, and I see something reflected in them, a monstrous shadow —
I'm shaken, grateful when a pothole in the road jars me awake. The sun starts its descent just as we begin to climb into the mountains, painting everything gold. The narrow road hugs a mountainside; to our right are the carved-away stone walls, sometimes covered over with avalanche nets, and to our left, out my window, green pines blanket the valley. In contrast to the sprawl and shine of Denver and its suburbs, the mountains seem like a formidable force against humans and signs of civilization dwindle rapidly until all we pass are old, half-crumbling mining towns. Decrepit houses and listing trailers are tucked in between the boulders and pines.
The dream lingers, but I breathe out, imagining it leaving me like smog from my lungs. I crack the window, put on my headphones, and focus on the bite of cool mountain air. Crowns of ice gleam in the sun, and the sky somehow feels bigger framed by their jagged peaks. On the horizon, I can see the translucent curtains of rainfall.
We're getting close now.
Omphalos, I think. A Greek word Marcus taught me. It means navel, technically. The center of everything. Where it all starts. Where it all connects.
The roads get steep, and the bus sputters and creaks. My music blocks out the worst of it, but I can still feel the bus vibrating around me, like a panting beast of burden as it climbs up these twisty roads. The metal frame shudders in a way that the worn polyester seat cushion can't disguise. It doesn't help that the only thing separating us from dropping off the mountain is a metal railing that doesn't look like it would withstand a strong gust of wind. For a second, I imagine what it would be like to lose control. To hurtle through the misty air, plunging past the soft blanket of fog and into the yawning forest of darkness below.
To shatter like glass.
I blink again and pull out my phone — it's time to text Uncle Marcus now that we're getting close. The text goes through, and I hope he sees it amid the bustle of Havenfall's summit — an annual celebration marking the peace between our three worlds, which is just about to begin.
"What's that frown for?"
A gravelly voice to my right snakes through my music. I half-turn away, hoping that it's not me being addressed, but the man across the aisle, the one with the newspaper, is looking at me, lips split to show cigarette-stained teeth. Reluctantly, I take off my headphones.
This guy must be from Haven. He's wearing a necklace with a teardrop-shaped pendant of the same odd, pearlescent silver that supposedly comes only from the old mines surrounding the town. But I've never seen him there before.
I give him a bare, polite smile. "Just happy we're almost there."
He rubs the pendant between his fingers. He has sun-weathered skin and pale eyes. "You going to Haven?"
"Yep." I can't help popping my lips slightly on the P. It's a stupid question — that's the only stop left, which this guy surely knows. "Going to visit my uncle."
"You from there? You look familiar."
Wariness curls around my heart, but I push it down and shake my head. Haven has less than a thousand people, and it's tucked away so high, inaccessible but for twisty county highways. It's possible the man might remember me from seeing me around town. But he wouldn't — couldn't — have remembered me from the inn; Havenfall protects against that.
"Like I said, just visiting family."
"Well, I'm pleased to meet you."
"Likewise," I lie, reluctantly shaking the hand he sticks across the aisle. His hand is clammy, his grip too tight. When he smiles, I notice several fillings made from the same pale silver as the pendant.
To my relief, he doesn't ask further questions once I turn back toward the window. We're climbing higher and higher as the sun sets, the air thinning and my ears popping. Clouds creep in from the west, covering the orange sky and casting the craggy mountains in shadow. The driver goes slower as the wind picks up. The towns are almost non-existent now: the only signs of human habitation are the odd cabin or broken-down car. But the landscape gets more beautiful, even under the gathering blanket of storm clouds. Fog creeps down over the mountainsides, wrapping around the trees and spilling tendrils over the road, but the effect is almost comforting, like we're the only people in the world.
Another oddity about Haven: the weather is strange around here. Locals know it, and it keeps outsiders away. There are other measures, too, other precautions meant to keep this place secret and safe. As we pass the faded road sign that says Welcome to the Inn at Havenfall, I look at the trees on either side. My uncle employs a dozen people to keep watch outside town year-round. I know I won't see them — they're stationed deep in the woods, in cabins or converted deer blinds. There to make sure that no magic escapes the boundaries of the town.
It hasn't happened in years, and when it does, it's usually easily explained — a maid sneaking out a bottle of Fiorden wine without realizing the power it holds, or a bored noble taking a ride through the woods that ranges too far. But once every few years a delegate will decide to try to smuggle magic out for profit. I don't know what the punishment is for that, but I've never seen any of the offending delegates again.
The clouds finally crack and rain drizzles down as we round the mountain and see the town of Haven up ahead, a smattering of buildings clinging for dear life to the mountainside, encroached upon by the trees and the mist. A bright river snakes down through it before disappearing into the valley below us. And my heart leaps to see it, because Havenfall is just beyond the next ridge. The fog sparkles like a mirage. I glance behind me to see all my fellow passengers glued to the window, even the baby, looking out with round blue eyes.
We reach the crossroads just outside town, the place where Marcus usually picks me up in his jeep. Up ahead is the general store, a big log building with a generous wraparound porch spilling welcoming yellow light from inside. Two women chatting in rocking chairs on the porch look up when the bus stops and the passengers file off. I'm relieved when Silver Teeth Man exits, his fillings flashing as he gives me one more broad smile, and then disappears into the store. But then the anxiety slides back in. Maybe Marcus didn't get my text. He isn't here.
When the door closes, the driver meets my eyes in the mirror. "Someone coming to pick you up?"
I nod, holding on to the feeling of anticipation. No, it's not anticipation. It's need. Havenfall, my uncle and friends, Brekken — all less than a mile away now.
"We can wait a few minutes, but I can't take this thing any farther up these damn roads." The driver slaps the dashboard with a mixture of exasperation and affection. "And ..."
He lifts a hand, pointing at the dark clouds coming in from the north, the curtains of rain in the distance. Even if he doesn't know why, he knows that the weather gets more freakish the closer we are to Havenfall.
"Sorry about this." My voice catches as I shift in my seat, trying to call Marcus again. But I don't have service here. It's dead air. "My uncle should be here in a few minutes."
But a few minutes pass, and then a few more. No one comes.
The general store's lights have gone out; the doors are closed. And the storm is near, the scraggly pine trees around us stirring in the wind. My mouth is dry, my stomach heavy. The idling bus grumbles beneath me.
I'm used to being forgotten — it beats the smirks and stares that usually come with being noticed. When you're the loner, the weirdo, the daughter of the Goodwin Lane Killer, it's better to not be seen at all. It's different with Marcus, though. He's always had a place for me at Havenfall. He's never failed to be here at the crossroads when the bus comes in.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Havenfall"
Copyright © 2020 Sara Holland.
Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
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